The Orioles’ newly acquired designated hitter, Jim Thome, sat in the Camden Yards’ news conference room Sunday afternoon, wearing a black workout shirt with an Orange ‘O’ emblazoned on the chest, and talked about his new opportunity.
“It usually is [a whirlwind] when you move from team to team and I am excited to be here,” said the 41-year-old Thome, who the Orioles acquired for two minor leaguers Saturday. “These guys, they’ve had a great year and I think they’ve done some special things and hopefully we can continue to do that. And I’m excited, excited to be here.”
Thome arrived to the park about two hours before game time and was immediately inserted into the fifth spot in the lineup as the club’s DH. He went hitless in four at-bats, but received a resounding ovation when he first stepped to the plate. He also was well received in the clubhouse.
“Awesome. I’ve always liked him,” said center fielder Adam Jones. “He’s had an impact mentally and physically. He is a proven winner. He is a Hall of Famer, first ballot, for sure. He’ll just add that mental toughness we all can feed off of. Especially young guys. … Having a Hall of Famer hitting behind you, I’d be stupid to say, ‘No, that’s a bad idea.’”
Sunday was Thome’s 68th game (67th start) at Camden Yards in his 22-year career — and he’s certainly made a powerful impact with 18 homers and 45 RBIs, though he has hit just .233 in 249 career at-bats.
“I’ve obviously competed against these guys for a lot of years. It’s always been a very good park to hit in, but ultimately you’ve got to go out and have good at-bats,” Thome said. “And you have good at-bats, hopefully [they] will produce hits. And these guys have a lot of good hitters, so hopefully I can come here and contribute and help them with what they’ve done. And try to fit in as best I can to what they are trying to do.”
One of the reasons the Orioles traded for Thome was that he is widely considered a team leader. He says he embraces that role, something he learned from a highly successful former Oriole.
“I was fortunate in my days in Cleveland to learn from the likes of Eddie Murray, Dave Winfield, kind of watching them as their careers winded down. Not only can you contribute the days you play but also the days you don’t play,” he said. “Watching the game, watching pitchers and just talking baseball. … I think being a good teammate is being a good listener. And also being there as a teammate and a friend. Through the years, I have had some good ones that I’ve been able to follow.”
Thome said his balky back is fine and that he hopes to play as often as physically possible.
“I think at some point I’ll sit down with [Orioles manager Buck Showalter], I’ll get a feel for what he’s thinking but I expect to come to the ballpark and play every day. Can I do that? I mean, realistically, probably not,” he said. “But I think the mentality every day is to come and be ready.”